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Cabbage Patch Riot: The Original Black Friday

By M Davies   /     Nov 26, 2012  /     Family, NEPA  /     3 Comments

**EDIT** Due to what has happened since I have published this post, I reneg my original stance. Looking back, a cabbage patch kid made me happy as a child, and if anything Elf on the Shelf has taught me that.  I appreciate all that the Mericle family has done to bring happiness to children in NEPA despite/inspite of what happened during KFC. I just want world peace.  Make love not war, children.  My family lived close to Main Hardware in my youth and it was always like visiting Disneyland.  Thank you for making my childhood slightly brighter.

 

Normally, I post an extended Black Friday recap to talk about the shopping experience with my family, but there isn’t much to tell that hasn’t already been said on Twitter.  I figured I’d try something different this year and flashback to a time in the Wyoming Valley’s history when there was a run on a must-have toy….the cabbage patch doll.

 

In 1983, I was a bald-headed 2 year old living in Hanover Township with just my Mom and Dad.  My brother wasn’t born until 1986.  For whatever reason, my Mom decided that a cabbage patch doll was the perfect gift for me to open on Christmas morning.  My mother had mentioned this to my Grandparents and my Grandfather (bless his soul) decided he would be the one to pick up the goods.

 

November 27 of that same year was actually the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  My Grandfather jumped in his car and headed over to the local Zayre’s department store.  If you are not from the area or not familiar, Zayre’s was along the same line as a K-Mart department store.  In the late 1980s, Zayre’s was sold off to the Ames Department store chain which eventually met it’s demise in 2002.

 

 

I would make an educated guess and say that the store most likely opened up at 10 or 11 am in the morning, as that is the normal hours of retail operation around here on Sundays.  When my grandfather arrived the parking lot of Zayre’s (which is now where current day Raymour and Flannigan is in Wilkes-Barre Township) he could not find a parking spot anywhere.  After driving around for several minutes, he eventually found somewhere to pull over.  He walked up to the store and there was a long line of people waiting to get in.  My Grandfather struck up a conversation with the people in front of him.  He didn’t understand what the line was for.  They told him it was for a cabbage patch doll.  My Grandfather then exclaimed that was what he was there for too!

 

After standing in line for a couple of minutes, my Grandfather ventured up to the front of the store to see what was going on.  Someone (an employee?) told him that they were giving out tickets for the dolls and there were only so many that they had – 200 I believe.  With that information in the back of his mind, my Grandfather knew he was not getting a doll.  He went back to the end of the line and decided to tell the people what was going on before he left.  Needless to say, they were EXTREMELY upset.  I don’t know whether or not this caused the riot, but I’m sure it did not help matters.

 

Last week, I started talking to a few co-workers that remembered the riot well.  I told them my story and they started teasing me that my Grandfather started the riot.  Rest assured, that didn’t happen.  My Grandfather is the most laid back, mild mannered person you’d ever meet.  He was only sharing information with people so that they wouldn’t stand in the freezing cold line only to leave empty handed.

 

Here is a video that I found on Ebaumsworld that includes some WNEP footage:

 

 

To sum up what is happening here…A Store Employee stood on a counter swinging a baseball bat to try to regain order of the crowd which included roughly 1000 people.  Eventually, as you can see from the video, he started tossing the dolls into the crowd.  This made national newspapers, magazines, and TV news shows.  If you are wondering, my Grandparents ended up finding me a Cabbage Patch doll elsewhere a few weeks later and no one was hurt in the purchase of the doll.

 

Even though this box says 1985 – I swear this is the doll I received (as disturbing as it looks):

 

 

Did I mention that my head was as bald as this doll’s was until I was about 3 years old?  I’ll have to dig up a picture of that somewhere.

 

Anyway, holding this discussion with my fellow co-workers caused me to be late to class last Monday night.  My teacher/former manager was not pleased with me as we had a test that night.  I started to explain to him why and he recalled what he remembered about the riot, mainly, how the Cabbage Patch dolls supply stayed stocked in the valley.  The Mericles!

 

From the CV:  Robert Mericle capitalized on 1983’s Cabbage Patch Kid craze while studying economics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After witnessing a customer free-for-all at a city department store that received a shipment of the sought-after but understocked dolls in November 1983, Mericle ordered 10,000 on credit and sold certificates promising post-Christmas delivery. After the Cabbage Patch coup, he formed a toy-distribution company that he operated through his college years.

Mericle then went into real estate, transforming a crumbling, abandoned shoe factory in Wilkes-Barre into the first local headquarters for student-loan processor Sallie Mae. He found a niche buying lots in the local industrial parks owned by chambers of commerce, building on them and wooing local and national firms to purchase or lease, often using government tax incentives as bait.

 

You may remember Robert Mericle in recent years for his participation in sweetheart deals in the courthouse/kids for cash corruption scandals.  You may also know his parents.  They own Main Hardware on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, home of Christmasland.

 

After all of the trouble my family went to for this oh-so-perfect Christmas gift for me, would you believe that I never played with it?  Growing up, I was more of a Tomboy and I didn’t play with dolls.  At all.  No barbies, no cabbage patch, no babies.  The closest I came to playing with dolls was She-Ra, and those were more of action figures than anything else.  My mother at one point questioned if I would ever have kids.  I guess we all know how that turned out.

 

After learning about these riots years later, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I didn’t play with the doll more knowing how much trouble everyone went though to get it.  Oh well.  I guess it would have been sold at an flea market or the Salvation Army at some point as I grew up.  I hope someone gave the little tyke a good home.

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NEPA BlogCon: The Technology Wrap-up

By M Davies   /     Oct 20, 2012  /     Blogging, Events, NEPA, Technology Hates Me  /     6 Comments

I’m juuuuuussstttt getting around to writing my wrap-up about NEPA BlogCon.  It’s been a crazy 2 weeks, and I haven’t been home much.

 

As part of my role with the Fearsome Foursome, I was tasked with being the “Technology Wrangler” on the day of the event.  No sweat because this is the type of thing I do every day at work, right?  Kinda.  I did run into some challenges on the day of the event.

 

To prepare for the big day, I made lists.  Lists of everything.  I used Google Docs to store this information.  I had a list of login information, a list of the girls laptops available at my disposal, a registration list, a list of who received swag vs. who did not receive swag….etc, etc etc.  I think at one point Karla freaked out at how many documents of lists I created!

 

In my technology arsenal, I brought my iPhone (where I did most of my live tweeting and updates), my MacBook Pro, a Samsung tablet I had on loan from Verizon, and a Netbook I had from work.  LCCC equipped us with a WIFI login so that people with devices could login to the College’s network and use the Internet as well as a computer login, so that if attendees wanted to login to a computer and try something they learned in class, they could.  I have my own student login for the computers at LCCC, so I used that.  I found out rather quickly that the machines did not have “administrative rights” under the special login or my student login.  This was a problem because we had 2 Skype sessions and also videos to transfer and play.

 

I first grabbed for my MacBook because I thought when I had checked the computers out earlier in the week, I would be able to do a DVI connection to the projector.  WRONG.  It only supported VGA.  And because Apple has proprietary cables for everything, I’d need a special connector (read: $49.99) to get it hooked up.  Plan B.  I try to download Skype to the computer because I thought I might get lucky and be able to skirt around the administrative rights issue the way Google Chrome does when you install it.  WRONG.  I was denied access to installing the program.  Plan C.  I pull out the Netbook from work, which is crappy, but amazingly enough, it has a VGA connection and Skype already installed.  After fiddling around with the display settings, I was able to get it working with the projector in the first room.  Shirley Yanovich was our LCCC/CIS Computer Club partner, so I had to get her to call the help desk at LCCC.  After a short eternity, they were in the second room helping get Skype installed.  YAY!  I copied the video files to both computers and did a test.  It looked perfect.  Not too long after that, people started filing into the rooms.  Darling Stewie and I stood in each room and used hand motions to time the start of the Gala Darling‘s keynote so that both rooms were roughly cued up to the same time.

 

Issue #2 arose when we tried to Skype in Gala Darling for a Q and A session.  Since this was a last minute thing, we did not have time to test it out.  We wanted both rooms to be able to participate in the Q and A, but we could only get Gala up in one room.  She wasn’t sure how conference another person in with Skype.  To get around this, we were able to cram everyone (uncomfortably) into one room to participate in the Q and A.  This is a learning point for next year….Q and As might be done via Twitter or we will use Google hangout instead.

 

The rest of the morning sessions went off without a hitch.  I started a video that Hey Shenee! sent us in advance about Branding.  The video played fine, but the sound was a little quiet.  I had to crank it all the way up to get it to an audible level for the room.  I didn’t really have time to check the videos ahead of playing them, as we literally received them THE NIGHT BEFORE.  I’m not even kidding.  Later, I assisted Shannon Nelson and Jessie Holeva with their presentation – I pushed the button to make the slides advance, don’t laugh….it was an important duty!

 

The afternoon sessions went mostly well.  We were a little concerned about Kris Jones’ whereabouts, but he showed up right on time.  There was another Skyped session with Lauren O’Nizzle that was a mess.  I don’t know if there were connection issues on her end or on our end, but the video was really choppy.  Gala‘s skyped Q and A from earlier did look fine on the screen despite the conferencing issues.  I would have to assume the connection issues were on Lauren’s end, but I cannot be sure.  Again, I think next year, we will avoid the Skyped sessions and opt for videos in advance (those worked out extremely well) or just do live presenters.

 

During Kris’s presentation, there was some online trolling going on in our Tweet Chat.  I won’t bore you with all of the details, but Karla covers it in her post here.

 

After the event was over, I collected surveys from the attendees and crunched the data into a Powerpoint presentation.  The overall response was positive.  There were a lot of good suggestions that we will take into account when we start the planning process for next year.  For now, you can check out all of the videos of the sessions and panels by visiting our website:  http://nepablogcon.com/blogcon-2012/videos/

(Hey….now I can watch everything I was busy troubleshooting…SCORE!)

 

The mission of the conference was to educate Northeast PA about the social media and blogging tools at their disposal while giving back to the community.  I am happy to report that we raised over $2500 for our two charities, the Arc of Luzerne County and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Veterans Multicare Alliance.  We also had a TON of food over from the event.  All of that was donated to a homeless men’s shelter in South Wilkes-Barre.  For having 100 registered attendees, I would say this wasn’t a bad first year.  We are already starting to talk about next year and how we can make the event grow.

 

Whether you attended, sponsored, presented or volunteered the day of the event, we cannot begin thank you enough.  Without you, this day would have not been possible.  THANK YOU! 

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Lee, a year later

By M Davies   /     Sep 07, 2012  /     NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post on the Irene/Lee flooding, but I came across a TED Talk that sounded so familiar, I couldn’t help but to comment on it (embedded below for your viewing pleasure).  BTW, TED Talks = New Addiction.

 

 

I was fortunate enough to not experience any of the aftermath of the Irene/Lee flooding.  As you know from the previous post, I did have a 5 day long power outage after Irene, but I did not have to worry about flooding.  I have no idea what going through a flood must be like, so I really have no place commenting on it.  It looks completely terrible.  I can’t imagine losing worldly possessions in such a disaster.  I can’t imagine the damage, the smell, the cost, and the heartbreak.  All I know is throwing away 100 dollars in groceries and flushing toilets with water taken from a pipe along State Rte 29.

 

Just because I didn’t experience the disaster first hand did not mean I didn’t care.  I wanted to help.  I just didn’t know how.

 

One thing became obvious, people needed information about how to give and receive help.  Suddenly, an idea sparked with Karla Porter.  Why not setup a Facebook page to get information out there quickly?  And so the Wyoming Valley Flood 2011 Facebook page was born.  Harold, Karla, Jason Percival and I were all established as moderators on the page.  We soon grew to over 6500 likes.  People were sharing photos, information, asking for help and offering help at the rate of speed we could barely keep up with.  Both local news TV stations were overwhelmed and spread too thinly, so we figured this might be an additional way to help spread information.  It was a great resource for people for the most part.  However, we did run into issues with the rumor mill running rampant.  One particular instance I can think of was whether or not JJ Banko’s in West Nanticoke washed away.  There was a county rumor control hotline established to confirm or deny rumors, however, we quickly found out that they were getting their information from TV/Facebook and in some instances they were helping to spread misinformation.

 

Harold recounted the phone conversation recently on my Facebook wall:

 

Them: “Hi, this is Rumor Control.”
Me: “There’s a rumor out there that Banko’s has collapsed. I know it was surrounded by water, but can you confirm that it has collapsed?”
Them: “Yep, that’s what we’re hearing too!”

 

JJ Banko’s is still standing to this day, so this info was obviously not correct.

 

After the water receded, people needed help cleaning up, collecting supplies and getting their lives back to normal.  Two websites were established locally to help get information out and match up various items with people who needed them.  They are:

 

 

There were also other Facebook pages established for people in the surrounding counties to try to accomplish what we did with the Wyoming Valley Flood page.  I also created a link on NEPA Blogs that contained a bunch of information I collected from Facebook and the News about things people needed and other ways they could help out.  Updating the “Giving Help” post became a daily chore, because the status of the need for help and what could be provided changed hourly.  At one point, I think I was only sleeping a few hours because I was more concerned about updating that page and getting information out there.  My last update was on October 3rd.  I’m not sure how many people actually used it, but to this day “Giving Help” has been the one blog post that has received the most page views on the blog (2084 to be exact).

 

Looking back, what could we have done differently?  I don’t know.  I think it worked out pretty well.  We probably could have created a Twitter account to ReTweet important information.  Unlike the girls in the TED Talk video, Harold/Jason/Karla and I were widespread, and not on the front lines of any one recovery effort so it was hard to know exactly who needed what and where.  Karla did try to show the Facebook page setup to the Luzerne County EMA Director as potential way for getting information out the next time there is a disaster, but received no response to date.

 

As the girls from the TED Talk discovered, communities in major disasters need the right tools at the right time and put into the hands of the right people.  Their disaster recovery in a box solution “Recovers” could be valuable resource the next time around (and there will most certainly be a next time).  Are our community leaders investigating such solutions and looking at how to improve information sharing in a disaster?  I hope so.

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Hurricane Irene, 1 year later

By M Davies   /     Aug 31, 2012  /     NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

 

A year ago, I didn’t have electricity for an entire week.  Well technically 5 days, but it may as well have been an entire week.  Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but it was a big deal to me.  I live in the sticks, and my indoor plumbing (coming from a well) completely relies on electricity.  No electricity = No running water, no washing dishes or clothes, no flushing toilets, no drinking water, etc etc etc….  Maybe it wouldn’t have been as bad if we didn’t have 2 young children and pets, but we do.

 

You can read my posts about Irene here:  Post 1 | Post 2 | Preparing for the Next | Flickr Photoset

 

The local media had some good articles about Hurricane Irene this week.

 

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission recently released a report that contained some key findings I found of interest.

 

1.  It was soon apparent that there were major problems with the ability of the EDCs’ customer call centers to handle the high volume of calls on August 27 and 28, 2011.

Yep.

 

2.  While over 93% of customers out of service at the peak of the outages were restored within 72 hours, the remaining customers were not fully restored for 4 or more days.  As compared to similar storms from the EDCs’ recent histories (see page 27, below), full restoration for Irene appeared to take longer. Even if a day or two is removed from the restoration time, given that the tropical storm force winds lasted through much of the full day on August 28, 2011, the full restoration for Irene appeared to be extended.

Yep.

 

3.  All EDCs realized the potential of utilizing alternative communication methods such as text messaging, email, Twitter and Facebook to disseminate information and restoration estimates.

This one I have somewhat of a problem with.  How can Facebook, Twitter, Email, or Text Messaging be considered a primary form of communication when THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY?  The only way I was able to check any of those things was when I was at school, work or charging my cell phone from my car.  There needs to be another way.  I could not even try to buy a newspaper in the first few days because most local businesses were closed due to….YOU GUESSED IT….no electricity.  UGI’s answer was to have a public meeting nearly a week after the fact of the emergency.  Way to be timely, UGI.  I took this issue to their Facebook Wall.

(Click little picture for pop out)

I’d like to think that they understood what I was talking about, but I still sensed some thickness on their parts.

 

Anyway.  Here are the PUC’s recommendations:

 

Recommendations
Recommendation 1: EDCs need to improve their ability to handle high volume call periods during major outage events as well as implementing a procedure to prevent inaccurate or misleading restoration messaging during expected long-term outage events.

Recommendation 2: EDCs need to strengthen their relationships with local and county emergency management and elected officials.

Recommendation 3: The Commission and the industry should partner to study whether Pennsylvania is experiencing increased extreme/severe weather events. Particularly, more information is required on the recent long-term outages experienced by the EDCs: (1) Were the outages caused by the damage of the severe storms in more remote and hard-to-reach locations of circuits? or (2) Are these the same troublesome circuits that have experienced multiple long-term outages?

Recommendation 4: When performing major storm reviews, TUS should examine EDC crew movements not only for the external crews received, but also any internal crews moved outside of the affected EDCs service territories and whether it has a detrimental effect on restoration.

 

These are all common sense things.  I am particularly concerned about Recommendation #4, I seem to remember that several local crews were sent out of the area to help others further south with Irene.  I’m all for helping other areas, believe me, I am….however, don’t you think we could have used them, oh I don’t know, say locally?  Oh, if only I could have been a fly on the wall in that PUC meeting….

 

I also think that there should be a local radio channel that you could turn to for information in emergency situations.  I had the hand crank/battery operated going during the days with no electricity, and I could not find one channel with information that was remotely helpful to me.  TV or newspaper would have been helpful, but I had no access to either of those things.

 

One thing that did make me feel slightly better from reading the Citizen’s Voice article was the fact that the Back Mountain will be banding together in the event of another emergency.

 

“In the aftermath of Irene, Back Mountain Community Partnership members from Harveys Lake and Dallas, Jackson, Kingston, Lake and Lehman townships got together to form a regional emergency management agency, headquartered in the former Back Mountain Medical Center on Route 118 in Lehman Township. The goal is to provide a better response in the event of another tropical storm of Irene’s caliber.”

 

Lucky for us, we won’t be living through another Irene.  Her name was retired from the list of Atlantic Basin storm names back in April.   (Source:  NOAA)  She won’t be missed.

 

 

All that being said…..the generator arrives this week.

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More WVNR

By M Davies   /     Aug 24, 2012  /     NEPA, TV Rants  /     1 Comment

I stopped down the Wyoming Valley Newsroom 3 additional times this week due to computer issues of the reporters and photogs stationed there, so I managed to snap a few more pics of the setup as an addendum to my last post. BTW, you can click any of these pictures below to pop-out a larger image.

 

     

 

Here’s the previous preview picture I posted above a picture I took on Sunday.  As you can see, there are two Newswatch 16 signs on the outside.  One facing the square and one facing those walking into the Bicentennial building.  I’m told they light up, but I haven’t really seen it happen.  There’s also a TV above the doors, although I’m not sure how well you can see it in the picture.  There are speakers mounted outside so that you can hear what’s on the TV mounted outside as previously mentioned.

 

 

When I tell people that I need to monitor what’s on WNEP & WNEP2 all day they tease me saying such things as “MUST BE NICE, YOU GET TO WATCH TV ALL DAY LONG”.  Um, no.  Actually we monitor what airs on TV to make sure none of the paid commercial sponsors that we have air in black.  If they do, we have to adjust their billing at the end of the month.  At the WVNR, there are 3 TVs on the wall in addition to desktop TVs for this purpose.  Also to catch any weird errors that may occur during news broadcasts.

 

 

The last time I was at the WVNR, the signage on the pole (toward the front) was incorrectly placed and was in the process of being removed.  Originally the sign company centered the letters on the pole and in actuality it needed to go only so many inches down from the top (a.k.a. uncentered).  They have been back to fix it and it looks really good.

 

 

One of the cool things about the WVNR, that hasn’t really received enough attention in my opinion, is the mural on one of the back walls.  The pictures on the mural are from all around the area.  Andy Palumbo tells me that a few of his photos are featured on the mural.  This picture does not do the mural justice though, you kind of have to see it in person.

 

 

Something odd…as I was helping the Wilkes-Barre crew with computer issues on Monday, we received a flower delivery.  The address was wrong on the flowers, so the first time the guy showed up we sent him away.  He came back a short time later and showed us the card and we accepted the delivery.  The card had the incorrect address, but was addressed to WNEP-TV.  It said “Welcome to the Neighborhood, From all your friends at Eyewitness News”.  Awkward.  We aren’t sure if this a real thing or someone playing a prank, but either way we all had a good chuckle about it.

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New Digs

By M Davies   /     Aug 16, 2012  /     Events, NEPA, TV Rants  /     1 Comment

Today marks the opening of the Wyoming Valley Newsroom for WNEP in the Bicentennial Building in downtown Wilkes-Barre.  Here’s a picture of it right after we announced that we were moving in:

 

 

I didn’t think to take a picture of the outside when I was downtown, but picture this office now with signage on the top on both sides, and the small window above the door houses a TV that shows what is currently airing on WNEP.  There are speakers mounted outside so that you can also hear the TV.

 

 

On Tuesday, I went immediately to the new newsroom to let a bunch of electricians in to run the cables for the audio and TV to work that is pointed outside.  This is what the inside looked like then, it was kind of in a state of disarray with tools, ladders and cables everywhere.  You can also see the sign guy working in the background.  The area that he’s in will be used for the “studio” section of the bureau.  Live shots will be done from that area.  Don’t worry, there was major cleaning that occurred yesterday afternoon to make the space presentable for our Grand Opening.

 

 

It’s kind of cool to know I had a small part in getting it setup – I hooked up and tested computers, desktop TVs and a printer/fax machine.

 

 

Oh!  I almost forgot!  When I was down there, my NEPA BlogCon squirrely girly Darling Stewie stopped by for a visit.  She brought me some nifty stickers!  We also had some other visitors that stopped by.  I must say that everyone that stopped by was enthusiastic about us moving downtown.  They wanted to know when we were opening officially, who would be working in the space, and I even had a college student stop in and ask about internships.  There was also a delivery person looking to drop off flowers for someone in the Matt Cartwright campaign.  Apparently, the Matt Cartwright campaign used to occupy the office space before we did.  I had to send the guy away not knowing where the Cartwright campaign moved to.  I’m sure Gort probably knows.  I wish he left the flowers…they were very pretty!

 

For the record:  Jim Murdoch, Bob Reynolds and Lara Greenberg will be stationed here, along with some photogs and the webmaster.

 

(Click above image for full sized pop-out)

 

Then one of the workers from Circles on the Square stopped by.  She was asking the same questions as everyone else was, but for a much different reason.  You see, Circles is kind of eccentric.  Everyday, they create a menu of specials, but the specials are named after current events.  Check out the menu above to see what they came up with for today (all WNEP themed)!  If you are in the neighborhood today, be sure to explore Circles vast menu.  I recommend the #54 Martha’s Perky Turkey.  However, Jackie’s “Whats the Meal!” does sound pretty yummy.  Lots of good stuff here, folks!

 

 

In the meantime, tune into WNEP at noon, there should be a live broadcast from the new bureau and lots of other fun surprises.

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